Migration Agent or Lawyer

Should I use a Migration Agent or a lawyer?

Many people ask what the difference is between a Registered Migration Agent and an Immigration Lawyer.

Before March 2021 only Registered Migration Agents and Lawyers who were also Registered Migration Agents could legally give migration assistance. As of March 2021 the Australian

Government allows both Registered Migration Agents and lawyers to assist people with their migration issues.  

In general, Lawyers are usually more expensive than migration agents.  Migration agents focus on one thing, namely Australian immigration law. Some lawyers are specialists in migration law, but most practice across other areas such as family, criminal or property law.

Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents are both highly educated. Lawyers must do an undergraduate degree and then undergo professional training. Registered Migration Agents must have an undergraduate degree plus a Postgraduate Diploma in Migration Law and pass a series of exams to become registered as an agent.

Only Migration Agents as a condition of their registration with the Office of the Migration Agent Registration Authority must have a subscription to a ‘professional library’. What is meant by professional library is a database such as ‘Legendcom’ which has the most up to date as well as all past versions of the Migration Act and Regulations, in addition to the policy set out by the Department of Home Affairs regarding each visa as well as the application procedures. This information is not generally available to the public at large and can be extremely useful when providing advice to visa applicants. Lawyers as part of the process of renewing their practicing certificate with their relevant state legal practice board do not need to show that they have access to a professional library like ‘Legendcom’ in order to practice in migration law.

Both a Registered Migration Agent and a lawyer are qualified to appeal a visa refusal to the Migration Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Only a lawyer can take your matter to the Federal Court. Taking an appeal to the Federal Court (or Federal Circuit Court) is a big decision. You would normally only do this if you had lost at the AAT and you want to appeal on a point of law. For this you need a good lawyer who knows this area very well. It can be expensive and high risk since, if you lose, you may have to pay not only your own lawyer’s fees but costs of the proceeding incurred by the other side.

For most people needing assistance with their visa application or refusal, a Registered Migration Agent provides a high level of knowledge and professional skill, at a more economical price.